The new points-based “Road to the Kentucky Derby” series continues this weekend with a trio of juvenile races. Points will be awarded to the Top 4 finishers in Saturday’s $400,000 Foxwoods Champagne (Grade I) at Belmont Park and the $400,000 Dixiana Breeders’ Futurity (GI) at Keeneland. Also, the $200,000 Grey (GIII) – the lone Canadian race is the series – will be staged Sunday at Woodbine.
Last week, the new series was inaugurated with victories by Steeler-IRE and Power Broker in England’s Royal Lodge at Newmarket and Santa Anita’s FrontRunner, respectively.
In June, Churchill Downs announced it would institute a point system to qualify for the Kentucky Derby and abandon the graded stakes criteria that was used from 1986-2012 to determine which 20 horses would have preference for America’s greatest race.
Condensed to 36 races, points will be awarded to the Top 4 finishers in each “Road to the Kentucky Derby” race.
The Champagne, Breeders’ Futurity and Grey are three of 19 races that comprise the “Kentucky Derby Prep Season” between late September and mid-February in which points will be awarded on a 10-4-2-1 scale.
The point values of races within the 10-week run up to the first Saturday in May will escalate by 5X or 10X during the “Kentucky Derby Championship Series,” which encompasses 17 springboard events to the 1 ¼-mile classic.
The Top 20 point earners nominated to the Triple Crown will earn a spot in the Kentucky Derby starting gate if more than 20 horses enter the race. The Derby field has been limited to 20 starters since 1975, and at least 20 horses have entered the race since 2004, and 12 of the last 14 years.
If two or more horses have the same number of points, which can often be the case whenever a point system is introduced, preference will be given to the horse with the highest earnings in non-restricted stakes races, whether the races are graded or not.
CHAMPAGNE – Early Kentucky Derby Future Book co-favorite Archwarrior will face multiple stakes-winning stablemate Shanghai Bobby and five other promising rivals in the 141st running of the one-mile Champagne, which goes as Race 8 at Belmont Park on Saturday at 4:34 p.m. EDT.
The much-ballyhooed Archwarrior won his debut by 1 ¾ lengths as a heavy 0.25-1 favorite. Four days later, Shanghai Bobby won the seven-furlong Three Chimneys Hopeful (GII) by 3 ¾ lengths over Fortify to remain unbeaten in three starts.
Archwarrior and Shanghai Bobby, along with five-length maiden winner Micromanage (cross-entered in Saturday’s $75,000 Dover at Delaware Park) are trained by 2010 Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Todd Pletcher, who swept last weekend’s 2-year-old stakes at Belmont Park after winning 23 juvenile races at Saratoga.